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Debt Relief Scams

How'd you like to lower your monthly credit card and loan payments -- guaranteed? An appealing offer to anyone struggling to pay their bills, but beware: a growing number of scammers are targeting consumers with significant credit card debt. These operations charge cash-strapped consumers a large up-front fee, but then fail to help them settle or lower their debts - if they provide any service at all.

There are signs that a company that promises to help you manage your debt may not be on the up and up. Avoid any organization that:
  • charges fees before it settles your debts,
  • guarantees it can make your unsecured debt go away,
  • tells you it can stop all debt collection calls and lawsuits, and
  • won't send you free information about its services unless you provide personal and financial information, like your credit card and bank account numbers.
  • You can work on managing your debt by talking with a credit counseling organization. By doing your homework you should be able to find a service that doesn't over-charge or over-promise. To start, visit the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a certified counselor near you.
    And what about those phone calls promising to help with your debt? If you hear a recorded sales message and you haven't given your permission to get calls from the company on the other end, the pitch may be a scam. Hang up and don't press 1 to speak to a live operator or press any other number because if you do, you may just be in for more phone calls. Where to go for help: Victims of credit repair or debt relief schemes can file complaints with the State Attorney General's Office or the Federal Trade Commission.
    This is a message from AARP Washington and the Washington State Attorney General's Office. If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, you can contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 1-800-646-2283 for help. Also be sure to share this alert with your family and friends so they know how to spot the common strategies scammers use and have the tools they need to defend themselves against their tricks. P.S. Spotted a scam? Tell us about it. Our scam-tracking map gives you information about the latest scams targeting people in your state. You'll also find first-hand accounts from scam-spotters who are sharing their experiences so you know how to protect yourself and your family.